It’s not baby fat: Among 4-year-olds, nearly 1 in 5 is obese


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From cnn health: Nearly one-fifth of American 4-year-olds are obese, and children of color are at higher risk, according to new research.

Researchers calculated the body mass index from a sample of 8,550 Hispanic, black, white, Asian and Native American 4-year-olds. The children were born in 2001, and in 2005, their height and weight were measured — 18.4 percent of them were obese.

“Significant differences in the prevalence of obesity between racial/ethnic groups were evident at 4 years of age,” the researchers wrote in the April issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

Using body mass index, they found that 31.2 percent of American Indian/Native Alaskans, 22 percent of Hispanics, 20.8 percent of blacks, 15.9 percent of whites and 12.8 percent of Asians were obese.

“It’s surprising that there are large differences by racial/ethnic group by that age,” said Sarah Anderson, an assistant professor of epidemiology at The Ohio State University and lead study author.

Anderson and co-author Robert Whitaker’s analysis showed that children were becoming obese even before encountering soda and candy vending machines in schools.

“These results really do point to the need for us to focus attention on early childhood and the need for research to understand how these differences can emerge so early,” Anderson said. “To do that, we may need to understand the different family and cultural factors that are at play in these children’s lives.”

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults fare no better. Approximately 45 percent of blacks, 36.8 percent of Mexican Americans and 30 percent of whites are obese.

“It’s a very bad sign if we see obesity at a young age,” Robinson said. “When we see children obese at age 4, we’re likely to see complications — high blood pressure, abnormal lipids — which can lead to heart disease and stroke, diabetes in children.”

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